Thursday, 31 October 2013

Farewell Jil

Fashion designer Jil Sander has left her 45 year old brand for the the third. According to the company, Jil Sander has decided to leave for "personal reasons". Jil Sander is known for her minimalistic aesthetic. I think of her as one of the main originators of minimal fashion design. She has been described as the Queen of Less, Cashmere-Queen, Master of Minimalism, Cool Blonde, Gentle-Jil or Fashion Reductionist. Her pieces of clothing are known for being versatile and timeless. Like most of the designers I love, Jil Sander pays a great deal of attention to the fine details of her clothing. Her clothes are form fitting, and impeccably cut. She uses very high quality materials as well. Her brand has a very specific concept, and whether she is involved with the design process or not, the concept is still present in the brand. The first time she left was in 2000, and the second in 2005. After Jil Sander left in 2005, she was replaced by Belgian designer Raf Simons for an eight year period. Raf Simons work at Jil Sander received rave reviews. Many people much prefer his collections, to the 6 Jil Sander produced when she returned in February of 2012.  I was first introduced to the brand while Raf Simons was designing. The niche of Jil Sander's aesthetic captured my attention, and I have been following the brand ever since.

The following are various campaigns and looks by Jil Sander herself.

It will be interesting to see who succeeds Jil Sander as creative director. Her leave marks the end of an era. She will be missed.


Thursday, 24 October 2013

London SS14 Best and Worst

The following are my favourite and least favourite London Spring/Summer 2014 collection.

J.W. Anderson

I have been really into Irish-born designer J.W. Anderson lately. J.W. Anderson's collection was beautifully minimal in colour. One thing I love about J.W. Anderson's collections are the colour schemes. They are rich and carefully chosen. His attention to detail is masterful. Another thing I love is that he uses repetition so cleverly. Each look is repeated 2-3 times in different colour ways, showing the versatility of his highly unique design approach. This season was heavily focused on material development. The collection featured a wide range of draped, twisted, gathered, sliced and embossed materials. Many of these materials appeared to be shaped by hand. All around an amazing collection by J.W. Anderson.

Giles Deacon

I don't know too much about English designer Giles Deacon, but when I stumbled upon this collection I had to include it in a post. The collection included a lot of religious-esque prints, lips, sneakers and bat inspired silk dresses. All of which went terribly wrong. To be blunt, the clothes look bad. I don't know what exactly the theme of this collection was, nor do I care enough to find out. There is nothing creative or culturally relevant about this collection. 


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Constraints of Corporate Fashion

On November 5th, 2012, French Fashion house Balenciaga announced designer Nicolas Ghesquiere would be leaving his position as creative director.

Nicolas Ghesquiere is a French fashion designer who had worked as the creative director of Balenciaga since 1997. The house of Balenciaga was founded in 1914 by Cristobal Balenciaga. Cristobal was known as a perfectionist couturier  and an innovator in design. He was even referred to as "the master of us all" by Christian Dior. Cristobal closed Balenciaga in 1968 and died in 1972. The house was inactive until 1986. From then untill Nicolas Ghesquiere was appointed creative director, the house struggled. When Nicolas Ghesquiere began at Balenciaga in 1997, he was only 26 years old. Nicholas Ghesquiere's work soon gained the industry's attention, and Balenciaga was purchased by holding company PPR (now Kering) in 2001. Over the next decade, Nicolas Ghesquiere turned Balenciaga in one of the most sought after french fashion houses at the forefront of the industry. In my opinion, he is one of the most influential designers of the the last decade.

The following are campaigns of collections by Nicolas Ghesquiere from his time at Balenciaga.

Fall/Winter 2007

Spring/Summer 2008

Spring/Summer 2010

Fall/Winter 2010

After it was announced to the press that Nicolas Ghesquiere was leaving Balenciaga, the industry was shocked (as was I). Nicolas Ghesquiere is one of my favourite designers ever, and I really loved his work at Balenciaga. Between December 2012 and late March 2013, Nicolas Ghesquiere was interviewed by System magazine for their debut issue. The interview was the released in April of 2013, which was a big deal because it was his first interview post-Balenciaga. In the interview he discusses why he left Balenciaga and his current views of the industry. The following is a excerpt from the interview.

"It was really that lack of culture which bothered me in the end. The strongest pieces that we made for the catwalk got ignored by the business people. They forgot that in order to get to that easily sellable biker jacket, it had to go via a technically mastered piece that had been shown on the catwalk. I started to become unhappy when I realized that there was no esteem, interest, or recognition for the research that I'd done; they only cared about what the merchandisable result would look like." -Nicolas Ghesquiere 

Nicolas Ghesquiere felt like the house of Balenciaga was becoming bureaucratic. The business side of the brand didn't agree with his creative vision. "I began to feel as though I was being sucked dry, like they wanted to steal my identity while trying to homogenize things. It just wasn’t fulfilling anymore." says Nicolas Ghesquiere. Although his departure was a surprise to many, Nicolas Ghesquiere he had been frustrated with the house for the last 2-3 years. He also revealed that other designers are in a similar situation; "What’s interesting is how my split from Balenciaga has encouraged people to get in touch with me, and they’ve said, ‘Me too, I’m in the same situation. I want to leave too.’ There are others, but my situation at Balenciaga was very particular."

When I read this interview I was enlightened. It gave me a glimpse of how the fashion industry really operates today. Basically, most large fashion brands are now subsidiaries or partial-subsidiaries of corporate holding groups such as Kering and LVMH. This means that the brands have the adequate funds, but the corporation has a say in just about everything they do. This corporate involvement can  get in the way of a designers creative process, as it did for Nicolas Ghesquiere. Unfortunately months after the System interview was released, Balenciaga decided to sue Nicolas Ghesquiere for 9.2 million USD. Balenciaga claims he had violated a separation agreement, and the interview could hurt the brand's image. Although corporate involvement is very much necessary in todays fashion industry, it can else cause a lot of harm. It's a shame that this had to happen.

Although it's upsetting things had to end with Balenciaga, I am excited to see what Nicolas Ghesquiere's next move is. There has been word in the industry of him replacing Marc Jacobs as creative director Louis Vuitton. Or perhaps he will start his own line. If there is any designer I would like to see do so, it would be him.


Thursday, 17 October 2013


Like Paris, Milan and London,  New York City has a semi-annual fashion week. In New York City, spring-summer womenswear shows are usually scheduled in the first week of September. New York fashion week is often criticized for being overly commercial and imitative of european fashion. This criticism dates back to the early 20th century, when French couturiers would license their designs to New York manufacturers and department stores to literally replicate and produce for an American market. New York Fashion week was created during Word War II (originally called "Press Week"), because American press were unable to travel to Paris fashion week and report on the new collections. So American designer began to show collections in New York City during what is now fashion week. Before 1943, all of America looked to Paris runways for inspirational styles. As American designers started to become more popular in the industry, New York fashion week gained international attention. Today, it is known as one of the four major fashion weeks.

Personally, I think that New York's fashion scene may have it's flaws but it's also progressive and distinct. The following are three of my favourite spring-summer 2014 womenswear collections from New York fashion week:

Alexander Wang

Proenza Schouler

Helmut Lang



Nuit Blanche

Every year in early October, the city of Toronto organizes a free, all night art event called Nuit Blanche in partnership with Scotia Bank. Nuit Blanche translates to "white night". The event aims to make contemporary art accessible to the masses, in one large festival. Nuit Blanche in Toronto was first introduced in 2006, and has since showcased 850 art projects from local, national and international artists. The event starts at 6 p.m. and runs till 6 a.m. It is all throughout the downtown core in Toronto, in public spaces and various buildings. Nuit Blanche originates Paris, France where the festival began in 2002. Today Nuit Blanche is based in over 25 cities internationally, but Toronto was the first city to replicate the event in North America.

Nuit Blanche 2013 took place on October 5th and 6th. Three of the major projects are as follows.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei created an outdoor installation in Nathan-Philips Square called "Forever Bicycles". The installation was a massive sculpture consisting of 3,144 interlocking bicycles.

French artist Boris Achour created an installation in Nathan-Phillips Square called "the rose is without why". A short poem by German poet Angelus Silesuis was spelled out in neon light which spanned over 300 feet.

Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata created an installation called "Garden Tower in Toronto" in front of the Metropolitan United Church on Queen Street East. The tower consisted of various pieces of wooden furniture.


Toronto based [R]ed[U]x Lab created a light installation called "Ad Astra" at the Bata Shoe museum .

Toronto Based Nathan Whitford, John Farah, and Sarah Keenlyside and London, UK Based Konstantinos Mavromichalis created a light and sound installation called "lightbridge" at the Puente de Luz bridge. Watch a video of the installation here.

These were just three of the installations I saw at Nuit Blanche. There were many other excellent installations that I couldn't find information and-or photos of on the internet. A list of most of the projects involved with Nuit Blanche 2013 can be found on their website. 

I have been to 4 of the 7 Nuit Blanches in Toronto. I went with my parents for the first two, and with friend's for the last two. I definitely prefer to be with a group of people in my age group. Nuit Blanche attracts people of all ages and walks of life. But theres definitely a youthful presence at the festival. Some of the projects this year were really good, others were a bit disappointing. I'd like to see more installations in neighbourhoods like Queen Street West, Kensington Market, and Parkdale. I don't feel a creative vibe in the downtown core of Toronto as I do in those neighbourhoods. Also, it would be nice if the installations were a little more spread out.

I had a lot of fun this year with my friends. We saw excellent contemporary art from some of the greatest artists in the world. However this years Nuit Blanche definitely had it's downsides. There were definitely more people in the streets than I have ever experienced before, and it was extremely hard to move around without having to push through crowds of people. I also witnessed a lot of ignorant, intoxicated people. I understand that it is an all night event and people want to drink, but are you really enjoying the art if your inebriated and falling over? I definitely had some really annoying encounters over the course of the night. To add to that it began raining at about 2 a.m., which was unfortunate for me because I was about 5 kilometres from where I was staying at the time.

All together it was a good night. Hopefully next year will be just as good, if not better!


Thursday, 10 October 2013

Rick Owens SS14

Paris Fashion Week is quite predictable in some aspects. Fashion houses spend large amounts of money on extravagant shows including set designs, lighting, music, invitations, after parties, and of course models. Models on Paris runways are typically around 6 feet tall, ages 17-25, and thin or toned. Very few exceptions are made. It's a very strict (and in some cases degrading) industry in that sense.  Models walk up and down the runway with flawless strides and that's about it. But this Spring/Summer 2014 season, American designer Rick Owens decided to try something different and completely new to Paris Fashion week. The following are pictures of Rick Owens Spring/Summer 2014 collection debut.

Rick Owens recruited four squads of female "steppers" to step-dance down the runway for his spring/summer show. According to Wikipedia "Stepping or step-dancing is a form of percussive dance in which the participant's entire body is used as an instrument to produce complex rhythms and sounds through a mixture of footsteps, spoken word, and hand claps." The dancers came from institutes in the US such as Howard College and The University of Maryland. The squads began practicing five months before the show to prepare for the complex, motion filled display of Rick Owens's collection.

I think that this fashion show sent an important message to the industry. This is because these models are considered "plus-size" and most of them are African American. Unfortunately, the truth is that the vast majority of models on European runways are caucasian. In addition, models are typically very thin. In the last few months, both super model Naomi Campbell and Kanye West have spoke out about the lack of models of colour on the runway. There is no excuse for not having models of different ethnicities. It's really up to the casting directors who book models for these shows to choose more variety. Hopefully they will begin to do so after this season. However it should be noted that models are typically around the same height and weight so there is consistency throughout the fashion week. It makes it much easier for the designers to fit their 30-50 different looks if the models have a similar body type. The dancing models were a total surprise to the industry. Rick Owens is known for his outlandish shows, but this is definitely his most extreme to date. He chose not to conform to the typical orientation of a Paris fashion show. I'm glad Rick Owens chose to do so. After seeing this show I feel much more open-minded about how models should look and walk on the runaway. By using these dancers in his show, Rick Owens is creating meaningful fashion that incorporates performance art and politics.



In March 2012, the historic French fashion house Yves Saint Laurent appointed designer Hedi Slimane as it's creative director. Hedi Slimane is a French fashion designer who is revered in the world of fashion for his work at Dior Homme (the menswear line of Christian Dior). When Slimane was appointed creative director, he was given total creative responsibility for the brand image and it's collections. He decided to drop the Yves in Yves Saint Laurent, and rebrand the house as Saint Laurent Paris (or SLP). However the classic YSL logo will still be used, and the beauty and fragrance lines will stay branded as Yves Saint Laurent.

There was a huge backlash in the industry when the rebranding was announced to the press. At first people were very critical of Slimane's decision to change the name of such a legendary fashion house. It was called disgraceful, and many people still refuse to refer to the house as Saint Laurent Paris. Yves Saint Laurent himself founded the brand in 1962 with his partner, Pierre Bergé. Yves Saint Laurent essentially pioneered the concept of ready-to-wear collections: show bi-annual ready-to-wear collections in addition to haute couture to capture the imagination of consumers, then mass produce pieces from the runway and sell them at comparatively affordable prices. He is with out doubt one of the most innovative designers who ever lived. Slimane had alot to live up to when he was appointed creative director. Unfortunately Yves Saint Laurent passed away in 2008. However his partner Pierre Bergé is reportedly okay with the name alteration. The rebranding was actually inspired by a collection launched by YSL in 1966, entitled Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. The 1996 logo and the current SLP logo are as follows.

Personally, I really like that Hedi Slimane has rebranded the house as Saint Laurent Paris. At first I didn't, but it grew on me. I love that it has a retro inspiration. It's also a very modern touch to the brand image, something I think the house needed. It's humorous to me that people can't accept the change, especially since Hedi is such a talented person. Not every parisian fashion house can last forever. Is it not a good thing that someone is taking YSL in a new direction, and putting life into one of the most influential brands in fashion?

Hedi Slimane is one of my favourite designers. He is famous for his skinny Dior Homme suites, which changed the whole tailoring market about 10 years ago. His aesthetic is largely inspired by music. Hedi Slimane is also a professional photographer. He has an amazing online diary of his photography work, and has collaborated with some of the most exciting fashion magazines in the industry. His aesthetic is unique and rebellious in a way that is very relevant to todays youth culture. He has taken classic pieces, such as a leather biker jacket, and applied his aesthetic to them. Hedi Slimane's vision for Saint Laurent Paris has been very successful in winning over the loyalty of customers since the rebranding. I think as a creative mind he was the perfect choice for Saint Laurent Paris. Although, many people in the industry would disagree. He has been criticized for producing luxury collections inspired by "teen grunge" and "punk rock". He has also been criticized for his reoccurring skinny silhouette, as some people feel it might encourage youth to become dangerously skinny to obtain the look. Despite peoples negative opinions, Saint Laurent Paris is selling extremely well. In fact, this seasons $7275 Saint Laurent leather biker pants have sold out in 3 sizes on Canadian website SSENSE.

Another sign of prosperity for Saint Laurent Paris was when the brand cancelled an order of their fall/winter 2013 collection from French department store Colette. The reason Saint Laurent Paris cancelled the order (which could have amounted to over a million euros in retail sales) was because Colette had stocked the following shirt after the SLP rebranding.

Unfortunately for Colette, stocking the above shirt ended a 15 year relationship with the brand formerly known as Yves Saint Laurent.


Thursday, 3 October 2013

LCM Favourites

Back in June of 2013, the third season (Spring/Summer 2014) of what is now known as London Collections: Men (LCM) was showcased in London, England. LCM is a biannual showcase of fashion collections from emerging British fashion talent, innovative international fashion talent, global menswear brands and the classic British tailors of Saville Row. With the help of the British Fashion Council, Dylan Jones (Editor of GQ UK), has successfully established LCM as an important showcase of menswear on an international scale. 

LCM is basically a way of rescheduling the London menswear collections to a more relevant part of the London Fashion week schedule. Before LCM was conceived, the menswear shows were inconsistently scheduled. This made it challenging for buyers, editors, and the industry in general to keep track of the new menswear seasons being debuted in London. The collections are now condensed into 3 exciting days of fashion shows and presentations. This past season's schedule is the most impressive line up thus far, including brands such as Tom Ford, Alexander McQueen, Burberry and Paul Smith to name a few.

London has become known in the fashion industry as being at the forefront of innovative fashion. LCM is an interesting juxtaposition between the new generation of menswear designers, who really push boundaries with their clothing, and the very classic tailors of Saville Row, who have been dressing posh Englishmen for decades. 

The following are three of my favourite collections from LCM SS14.

Christopher Kane:

James Long:

Xander Zhou: